What is an au pair?

Definition of an au pair

An au pair is a young adult from overseas who lives with your family on a legal visa for up to two years and provides childcare in exchange for a weekly stipend, room and board, and an opportunity to become part of an American family. Over time, an au pair becomes a trusted support for the parents at home, and a beloved and consistent caregiver for your children. We ask our host families to be supportive of their au pair’s goals, and to do everything they can to ensure they make the most of their experience while here in the USA.

Facts about au pairs:

  • Au pairs come from 20+ countries around the world
  • All au pairs are between the ages of 18-26 when they arrive in the U.S.
  • Au pairs stay for a minimum of 12 months and have the option to extend for 6, 9, or 12 months with the same family or a new one
  • Most au pairs are women (but we have amazing male au pairs as well!)

What does an au pair do?

Live with an American family

Au pairs receive room & board, and a minimum weekly stipend of $195.751 from their host family.

Provide childcare

Au pairs can provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week (up to 10 hours per day, and not overnight).

Study at an American college

Au pairs are required to complete a requirement of 6 college credits during their term, subsidized for up to $5002 from their host family.

Share their culture

Au pairs share their home country’s language and culture, helping children develop a global perspective.

What ages can au pairs take care of?

Au pairs can assist with newborns and take care of babies over 3 months of age. They can feed, bathe, and put your little ones down for naps on a schedule you determine.
Au pairs can engage young children in creative play, spend time with them outside, read books, and get them involved in arts and crafts.
School-aged children
Au pairs can help school-aged children with homework, drive them to practices, games, lessons and appointments, and act as mentors and “big sisters” or “big brothers”.

Should my family host an au pair?

Our program works best for families who have a genuine interest in cultural exchange and like the idea of welcoming someone who becomes an extended family member into their homes. Your au pair will share their own culture and language with your whole family and will also want to learn more about America. Most host families and au pairs keep in touch beyond their au pair year and often visit each other again in the U.S. or overseas. 

Ready to start your search?

Register today to enjoy full access to all available au pair profiles.

Watch our ‘what is an au pair?’ video

Learn more about what an au pair is from Pooja Palimar.

‘What is an au pair?’ video transcript

I get asked this question all the time, my kids actually have the perfect answer… They think au pairs are strangers who come to live with you, become a part of your family and love you forever.

An official definition of an au pair is a young person from overseas who travels to the U.S. to live with an American host family, help take care of their children and participate in a cultural exchange program.

Our au pairs come from over 25 different countries and most of them are women, although there are some amazing male au pairs. Au pairs are between the ages of 18 and 26; they all speak at least conversational English, and they’ve all finished the equivalent of high school in their home country. Au pairs also have at least 200 hours of childcare experience.

The au pair program is regulated by the U.S. Department of State, which means au pairs arrive to the U.S. with a legal J-1 cultural exchange visa. This special visa allows them to spend one year in the United States, and at the end of their term, they are able to stay an additional year.

There are many reasons why young people want to become au pairs, besides just their love for children. They want to improve their English and add overseas experience to their resume. They are very excited to live here and travel to different American cities and attractions. Another motivation for coming here is to challenge themselves and do something that will help them grow personally. Au pairs are also excited about becoming part of an American family and learning about our way of life.

Frequently asked questions

What is expected of me as a host family?

In addition to the host family qualifications required by the U.S. Department of State and Cultural Care Au Pair, host families should be prepared to embrace the cultural exchange spirit of the program. This means welcoming your pair as you would an extended family member and helping them adjust once they arrive. You may need to explain household rules and routines more than once, and not all at once. Asking how their day was, being thoughtful on holidays and their birthday, and including them in family meals will go a long way to helping them feel welcome and supported in your family. While the needs of your children are of the utmost importance, it is also important that au pairs receive the benefits of an exchange experience.

What’s the difference between an au pair and nanny?

Many people use the terms ”au pair” and “nanny” interchangeably, but there are some important distinctions to make between the two. First, an au pair, by definition, is a young person from overseas who joins an American family to care for their children. They travel on a legal, one-year cultural exchange visa through a designated au pair agency. Au pairs are live-in caregivers who initially commit to a one-year stay but have the opportunity to extend their time in the U.S. for 6, 9 or 12 months. Their working hours and conditions are regulated by the U.S. Department of State.


Au pairs have at least 200 hours of experience (usually many more) as babysitters, tutors, kindergarten assistants, camp counselors and sports instructors. All au pairs attend a training program before joining their American host families. They are excited to join an American family and immerse themselves in American culture.


The term “nanny” on the other hand, is a more general term that can be used to describe both professionally trained caregivers and those with less formal experience.

Learn more about the differences between au pair and nanny.

What are the au pair requirements?

To be an au pair with Cultural Care, a candidate must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 and 26
  • Pass a physical exam with their doctor
  • Complete secondary school or equivalent
  • Have at least 200 hours of experience caring for children
  • Be prepared to commit to at least 12 months abroad
  • Complete a criminal background check
  • Have a valid driver’s license

In addition, they must be willing to embrace the spirit of the au pair program—meaning they’re ready and excited to participate in a mutually beneficial relationship with an American family, one filled with trust, respect and cultural exchange.

1The U.S. Department of State has determined that au pairs are required to receive from their host families at least $195.75 per week. Host families and au pairs are free to discuss and agree to compensation higher than the required stipend minimum; however, this cannot be in exchange for the au pair exceeding the regulatory limits on working hours (10 hours per day; 45 hours per week) or performing duties beyond childcare-related tasks. The State Department formula is based on the federal minimum wage and applicable room and board credits. Any change in the federal minimum wage or the applicable credits will result in an increase in this minimum stipend amount. Please note, should a family extend beyond the first year, they would be responsible for the stipend for each week of the extension term. 

2This contribution towards an au pair’s education requirement is determined by the U.S. Department of State, and families agree to comply with any increase that is issued.